Miners Frolic, who won six medals for Britain in eventing with Tina Cook, was put down yesterday (26 May) at the age of 24.
“Arthritis had taken over and it was the right thing to do, but he will be greatly missed,” said Sarah Pelham, Miners Frolic’s co-owner who looked after “Henry” in all his holidays and throughout his retirement.
“He was a very special horse because he genuinely loved people. My little nephews would ride him up the drive, my grandson of 16 months was in the stable with him just recently – I never had any worries he would tread on them or bite them or anything.”
Sarah also paid tribute to the partnership Tina built with the horse: “The relationship Tina had with him was unbelievable – they were absolutely in tune and I’m not sure anybody else could have got anything like that out of him.
He was basically a great big chicken – beautiful, quite a good mover, but not very brave. It was purely Tina’s encouragement and way of dealing with him that got him there. He couldn’t bear a stick or anything like that and had to be handled with kid gloves.”
The full thoroughbred Miners Frolic was bred by Maurice Pinto. He was by Miners Lamp out of the successful hunter chaser Mighty Frolic and Tina was offered him by Maurice as a youngster.
“She took him home – all gangly and gawky – rang me and said she had this unbroken four-year-old and was I interested?” explained Sarah, who bought half the horse with money she had inherited. Later Nicholas and Valda Embiricos bought the other half-share in Henry.
The horse was successful coming through the grades, including taking second at the young horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers as a seven-year-old.
But he really sprang to prominence in 2007 when he won a CIC3* (now CCI4*-L) at Gatcombe and was in the top three in the CCI3*s (now CCI4*-Ls) at Blenheim Horse Trials and Boekelo. He earned himself a reserve spot on the British squad for the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong and was called up from there to compete when he was just 10 years old.
“Hong Kong blew my head off – we never thought we’d be going to the 2008 Olympics,” remembered Sarah. “It was incredible because he was the new kid on the block and came out on top.”
Fault-free performances in both showjumping rounds bumped Tina and Miners Frolic up the order to take the individual bronze and they led the British squad to team bronze too.
The following year the pair scored their greatest individual success when they won individual gold at the European Championships in Fontainebleau, France, and led the Brits to team gold.
In 2010, Tina and Henry were team gold medallists at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, before a “major hiccup” when Miners Frolic came close to death in 2011.
He was due to compete at Badminton Horse Trials when he developed a lump on his withers and had to be withdrawn.
“No one knew if it was a bite or a sting or what and they pumped him full of antibiotics. Then he got colitis,” said Sarah. “Tina rang me and said he had gone to Arundel Equine Hospital and she wasn’t sure he’d be coming back. Then she rang and said he was still alive, but she thought we should go and say goodbye.
“I’ve never seen anything so dreadful – he had gone from a fit horse to a hat rack in a few days. The staff there were wonderful, they wouldn’t leave him and managed to pull him through. We weren’t sure if he’d ever compete again, but he went back to Tina for a couple of weeks near the end of the season and she then sent him home to me.”
Sarah nursed Miners Frolic back to full health, feeding him five times a day, and in the spring of 2012, the race was on to get him qualified for the London Olympics, which the pair achieved with a trip to Ireland for Ballindenisk’s February CCI3*, where they finished third.
The pair went on to finish sixth individually and take team silver at London. Henry’s final team appearance was the following year, at the Malmö European Championships, where he finished 13th.
Miners Frolic was retired after he suffered a heart fibrillation as he started building up to the 2014 season. He spent a happy retirement with Sarah, initially hacking out, and then out in the field with his full-sister, Mighty Oats, who was also bred by Maurice.
Sarah has bred four horses from Mighty Oats – Miners Frolic’s “nieces and nephews”. The second, a seven-year-old called Kilmington Folly, by Cevin Z, is competing in the CCI2*-L at Houghton this week with Tina, while a four-year-old by Chilli Morning will go to the Cooks later this summer for his early education and hopefully in the future be competed by Tina’s daughter Isabelle.
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